RIVERSIDE, Calif. – A suspect believed to be responsible for a triple homicide in Riverside, who was subsequently shot and killed during a gun battle with deputies from the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department Friday, has been identified as a 28-year-old man who used to be employed as a law enforcement officer in Virginia, KTLA reported.
The deceased suspect was identified as Austin Lee Edwards, a resident of North Chesterfield, Virginia. The news outlet said he had been employed by the Virginia State Police as well as the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.
The Riverside Police Department responded to a welfare check regarding a man and woman involved in a disturbance near a vehicle close to a residence in the 11200 block of Price Court about 11 a.m. Friday. The pair involved in the disturbance were gone when officers arrived at the scene, Law Officer reported on Sunday.
Police officials said a young woman was reportedly in distress while getting into a red Kia Soul with a man at the location and leaving with him.
“Shortly after that, before [officers] arrived, the fire department responded for what appeared to be a fire” at a nearby location, Riverside Police Officer Ryan Railsback told reporters during a press briefing Friday night.
Crews with the Riverside Fire Department arrived at the scene and entered the burning residence. Upon entering the home, firefighters discovered three adult victims lying on the ground in the entryway.
“When they went inside to extinguish that fire, that’s when they discovered the three bodies,” Railsback confirmed.
“Their bodies were pulled outside where it was determined they were victims of an apparent homicide,” RPD said in a news release.
Following a preliminary investigation, police learned the young female in distress was a teenager who lived where the residential fire took place and the homicides occurred.
The suspect that she was with was later identified as Austin Lee Edwards, a resident of North Chesterfield, Virginia, according to KTLA.
“Information was related to allied law enforcement agencies regarding the triple homicide and Edwards,” police said. “Several hours later, he was discovered driving with the teen through San Bernardino County…in the unincorporated area of Kelso.”
According to law enforcement officials, Edwards opened fire on San Bernardino County deputies who returned fire, fatally shooting him. No deputies were injured by gunfire and the 28-year-old suspect was pronounced dead at the scene.
The teenage girl was not harmed during the encounter. She was later placed in protective custody with the Riverside County Department of Public and Social Services.
“Detectives determined Edwards had met the female teenager through the common form of online deception known as ‘catfishing,’ where someone pretends to be a different person than they actually are,” authorities said in the release. “It is believed Edwards had developed an online relationship with the teen and obtained her personal information. He traveled from Virginia to Riverside where he parked his car in a neighbor’s driveway and walked into the teen’s home.”
Upon entering the girl’s residence, police said Edwards murdered her grandfather, grandmother and mother.
“Detectives learned Edwards had worked for the Virginia State Police until recently employed at the Washington County Sheriff’s office in Virginia,” the press statement noted.
The three homicide victims have been identified as Mark Winek, 69, his wife Sharie Winek, 65, and their daughter, 38-year-old Brooke Winek.
Law enforcement authorities said the investigation remains ongoing and that anyone with relevant information should contact the Riverside Police Department.